Trump wants Republicans to vote early. In California, that's a message Republicans have been promoting for years – Orange County Register

A voter places his ballot for the 2024 presidential primary in the drop box at the Orange Public Library voting center in Orange on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Former President Donald Trump has one instruction for Republican voters this fall: Vote early.

The Trump campaign recently launched the so-called “Swamp the Vote” campaign, which encourages Republicans to vote early or submit a mail-in ballot to secure their registration status and encourage other Trump supporters to vote as well. It's a reversal for the former president, who has long condemned mail-in voting as “corrupt.”

Republicans in California may find this plan familiar.

For several election cycles, the California Republican Party has urged voters to cast their ballots as quickly as possible.

In California, ballots are mailed to registered voters about a month before Election Day. Voters can fill them out as soon as they receive them and return them by mail, drop them in a mailbox slot, or drop them off in person at a polling place.

“We may not agree with all the tools that Democrats have legalized here in California, but until we elect more Republicans, we need to make sure we're playing by the same rules,” said CAGOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson.

“If we allow the Democrats to take a lead three-quarters of the way through the game, it will be very difficult to make that up in one day,” she said.

An advantage for voters who cast their vote early: the party knows who to address and encourage to vote.

“Part of it is a benefit to the voter,” Patterson said. “You're not going to get mail from me anymore. You're not going to get phone calls anymore. You're not going to get knocks on the door anymore… all the methods we use to mobilize voters, you're not going to experience anymore, and you can go about your day knowing your vote was cast.”

But for the party it is also about economic concerns.

“If we spend time and resources mobilizing voters who are likely to vote but have not yet voted, we cannot reach new universes, people who are less likely to vote,” said Patterson, who was elected chair of CAGOP in 2019.

She pointed to Rep. Greg Wallis, who won his seat in the 47th District in Riverside and San Bernardino counties by just 85 votes.

Republicans who voted early in this race have allowed the party to appeal to those who might not have otherwise voted, she said.

CAGOP has supported early voting for several years. In the last election, the party also introduced what is known as “blot harvesting,” which allows citizens to cast their ballot for someone else under certain conditions. Patterson said this year's primary was a success.

More than 300,000 Republicans (about 14 percent of all Republicans who voted) cast their ballots earlier than usual this year, according to CAGOP figures. And more than 200,000 (8 percent of all Republicans who voted) had never cast their ballots earlier but did so in the primary, Patterson said.

“We see that our work is paying off,” she said.

Still, it hasn't been easy to convince Republicans to cast their ballots early or let someone else cast them, party leaders say.

“The natural reaction was, 'No way, I'm not giving you my ballot,'” said Randall Avila, executive director of the Orange County Republican Party.

The former president's change in stance on early voting helped ease concerns for some, Avila said, but the party has also worked to build trust in neighborhoods over the past two election cycles.

OCGOP, for example, appoints volunteers to be “district leaders” in their own neighborhoods. They go door to door and talk to voters, their neighbors and friends about upcoming elections.

It's much easier to give your ballot to someone you trust or to get voting information from them, Avila said.

Sign up for Down Ballot, our email newsletter covering Southern California politics. Subscribe here.

This year, the OCGOP is focusing primarily on former Republican voters who changed their registration to no party preference or Libertarian voters, bringing them back under the GOP umbrella. And they want to encourage voters who don't vote every election cycle to do so this year, “in whatever way they're willing to do it,” Avila said.

While urging Republicans to vote earlier this year, Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, continued to spread falsehoods about his 2020 election defeat.

He also announced that if he wins a second term in the White House, he would introduce same-day voting, voter ID requirements and the use of paper ballots in future elections.

“We will do it right. We will have a good, safe and beautiful election,” Trump said.

Several investigations following the 2020 election found very few cases of voter fraud – and not on a scale that could have affected the outcome of the election.

However, Trump was found guilty in May on 34 counts of involvement in a plot to illegally influence the 2016 election by paying hush money to a porn actress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.